From the Fabricator: Fascinating Insight

I decided to take a slightly different approach to the blog this week. Before getting into the news, I have an extremely interesting interview with a guy who I consider to be one of the most fascinating people in our industry today. This week, I tracked down Avi Bar, vice president, architectural products, for Advanced Glazings, to get his take on the current code landscape. I met Avi two years ago and was extremely impressed by his intelligence and focus. When the code discussion started to heat up, I thought getting Avi’s opinion would be interesting. And after getting his answers, I have no doubt that this will surely get some people talking.

The building/energy code process continues to evolve. What is your take on where the codes are now, and where they are going?

Avi Bar: I think there are two primary shifts now in code: energy codes are getting stricter, and they are becoming mandatory vs. voluntary. The codes are reflecting rising energy costs and environmental challenges. The codes recognize that the building envelope plays a significant role in addressing these challenges; however, most [building envelope] advances have been predominantly incremental as we try to tweak existing technologies and materials. This, in turn, has resulted in incremental code changes. All the evidence, however, indicates that we need a more radical change in energy codes. This will be fed by two possible triggers: an event that creates more scarcity of fossil fuels, or breakthrough technologies to compete. We hope that the former doesn’t have to occur before the latter. There are materials such as ours [Solera daylighting solutions] that are making that true. In Europe, code tends to be more stringent and mandatory as energy costs are substantially higher, but the net result is better buildings, and more innovation and greater value is derived from the glass industry. Another point of interest is that energy metrics for buildings are now factoring quantifiable benefits to the use of daylighting, strategically as the primary lighting source during usable hours.

What’s your take on the ASHRAE issue and the ongoing discussion that is seemingly pretty active in our industry now?

Bar: Here is the basic premise. ASHRAE standards are driven by two primary conditions: higher energy costs and environmental stewardess. Both of these conditions are important and should not be ignored. Asking ASHRAE to relax rules and code will compromise buildings' ability to be sustainable from an environmental and financial standpoint.The codes are not going to get less stringent. The voluntary nature is not going to spread. Instead, I predict (as we can see everywhere else in the world), the codes will get more stringent and mandatory. We can sit and cry about it, or we can rise to the challenge.The issue the glass industry is trying to address is that most current glass products are based on a composition that is fundamentally flawed. Glass is a highly conductive material. Air in the units (or gasses, which are highly prone to leakage) are highly convective. Low-E is reaching its maximum value in reducing U-values. Spacers are highly conductive too. Therefore, the fundamental construct of glass is challenged, as its only potential improvement is incremental, even with triple-glazed units―which add cost due to additional material and installation costs. Over and above this, vision glass struggles to deal with daylighting ... since it introduces heat and glare unless controlled through shading devices, which adds more cost. So given these constraints, it’s obvious that the "nemesis /enemy" is the code. If you can't improve, then the code is too strict.

But that does not have to be the case. If we look at using innovation and technology to change the construct and paradigms of the glazing, we can retain our position on buildings. There is much work to be done in this realm, but it's not far off. Therefore, my recommendation is instead of blaming ASHRAE and seeking lobbying money to fight it, let's invest this money in innovating and lowering material costs.The glass industry needs to embrace two fundamental things: innovation and education throughout the value chain.

Elsewhere…

  • So is it me, or did the fact that the General Services Administration noting that they have been looking at LEED for “almost a year and half” just make you sad? Seriously, it should never take that long. Or am I missing something? Yes, they studied 160 tools and standards (there’s really that many? My goodness...), but does it take that long to eventually decide on the biggest and most prominent one?
  • A website for you to absolutely visit and bookmark: the Efficient Windows Collaborative has added to their already amazing site and it now is even better. The new window selection tool is tremendous. Kudos to Kerry Haglund and her team for once again raising the bar when it comes to educational resources.
  • While we’re in congratulatory mode, we’ll send some congrats out to Alissa Schmidt of Viracon for winning a Distinguished Alumni award from her alma mater Minnesota State-Mankato. Alissa represents our industry well and it’s great her efforts are being recognized!

Next week, part two of my interview with Avi, including where the architectural community weighs in on the code debate.

Read on for links and video of the week...

The author is founder of Sole Source Consultants, a consulting firm for the building products industry that specializes in marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management, as well as website and social media, and codes and specifications. E-mail him atMaxP@SoleSourceConsultants.com.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

Comments

I completely agree with Avi Bar. We have been burdened in the US with lax building codes for far too long. The effect of strict codes can be clearly seen in the rapid development of European facade technology starting in the late 1970s, development that was driven by dramatic legislated reductions in building energy consumption. It is well time for the glass industry to embrace these important and necessary code changes and lead the way, through innovative product development, to a sustainable built environment.

Thank you Mic for the comment. There's no doubt that these efforts can be a positive. I appreciate you reading the blog!

I fully agree with the premise that the code is not the enemy. The industry has the opportunity to influence the development and adoption of codes and tends to do so to limit change to reflect on both current technology limits and the avoidance of capital expenditures on technology and processing developments. In this case (and others historically) these practices have a beginning, middle and end. When the end comes, new innovation must happen and things go through a period of upheaval and then ultimately settle into the "new norm" and everyone is happy again. That is where we are now, the end.

Avi's comments though more acurately draw us to a different conclusion. This is the beginning of the next "normal" and its time to think bigger than incremental change. There are a lot of smart folk out there and there is a lot of new and interesting technology. Time to unleash the folk and embrace the next technologies. This industry will survive and thrive.